2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk First Drive

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk
2018 Jeep® Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk:The Grand Gets Even Grander

Why a Jeep with 707 horsepower, 645 lb.-ft. of torque, a zero to 60 of 3.5 seconds and a top speed of 180 mph? If you’re wondering, you’re not one of the many enthusiasts that have been standing in line to buy this all-new, high-performance Grand Cherokee. You might change your mind, however, after you drive one.

I just motored this beastly beauty that weighs in at 5,363 lbs. from the city environs of Portland, Maine to the Club Motorsports Speedway in New Hampshire. The newest Grand Cherokee leaves its sprightly predecessor, the 475-hp. 6.4-liter Hemi V-8 Grand Cherokee SRT 8, in the dust; the newest model handles the everyday roads with mannered driving and the track with true vigor that will indulge some buyers to competitive racing.

Real Power, Real Speed

The 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk is powered by a supercharged 6.2-liter V-8 Hellcat engine and combines an upgraded high-torque-capacity TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission, world-class on-road driving dynamics, and new Brembo brakes to deliver Jeep’s topmost level of performance ever. It clocks a quarter mile time in 11.6 seconds at 116 mph, with a 60 to zero braking distance of 114 feet, and .88g capability on the skid pad, plus it can tow up to 7,200 lbs. and comes standard with Jeep’s Quadra-Trac on-demand four-wheel-drive system. What’s not to love?!

Priced starting at $85,900 (excluding $1,095 destination), the full-size utility vehicle comes in nine exterior colors: Billet Silver, Granite Crystal, Diamond Black, Ivory Tri-coat, Bright White, Velvet Red, and True Blue, as well as Trackhawk-exclusive Rhino and Redline 2. On sale this fall, it competes with the upscale luxury players, like the Range Rover SVR, BMW X5M, the Mercedes G-Wagen and the Porsche Cayenne Turbo S.

Beauty With Substance

Standard equipment includes heated and ventilated Nappa leather and suede seats with an embroidered “Trackhawk” logo, as well as a Premium Metal package that enhances the Trackhawk’s interior with upscale real metal accents. Additional premium interior features include standard active noise cancellation; premium headliner; leather-stitched instrument panel, doors, center console, and armrest; and Berber floormats with Trackhawk badge. The driver-focused interior features premium soft-touch materials, unique Light Black Chrome finishes and carbon fiber spears, and a 7-in. driver information display (DID) instrument cluster, which places the tachometer in the middle and a 200-mph speedometer on the left side of the cluster.

Track Performance With Uconnect Touchscreen

The instrument panel center stack contains new 8.4-in. Uconnect touchscreen boasting a Trackhawk-exclusive Performance Pages feature that showcases an array of performance timers and gauge readouts, including a new engine dynamometer screen that measures instantaneous horsepower, torque, and current transmission gear. The dynamometer screen also includes a new snapshot function for owners to save their readouts on a USB. Uconnect seamlessly integrates with your smartphone via standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Like other Grand Cherokee models, the Trackhawk can carry 36.3 cubic-feet of gear behind the second-row seats, or 68.3 cu.-ft. with them folded.

A fully wrapped Signature leather interior package with “Trackhawk” embossed on the seats is optional in black or Trackhawk-exclusive black and Dark Ruby Red. Dark Ruby Red seatbelts, a dual-pane panoramic sunroof, and a dual-screen rear-seat entertainment center with Blu-ray are optional.

Outside, the Trackhawk rides one inch lower than non-SRT Grand Cherokee models and is further set apart with body-colored wheel flares, side sill cladding, and a sculpted hood with dual heat extractors. Up front, Jeep’s signature seven-slot upper front grille is flanked by adaptive, bi-xenon headlamps and surrounded by an LED character lamp treatment. The headlamps feature a unique Gloss Black background to accent their jewel-like appearance. Out back, a unique Gloss Black rear valence showcases 4-in. Black Chrome quad exhaust tips. A “Supercharged” badge on both front doors and a Trackhawk badge on the liftgate is crafted with a Liquid Titanium Chrome outline and Matte Black background.

2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Trackhawk

At the corners, standard 20×10-in. Titanium-finish wheels with a Satin Chrome center cap showcase the distinctive yellow Brembo calipers underneath. Up front are 15.75-in. two-piece vented rotors with six-piston calipers painted with a new distinctive yellow finish, and 13.78-in. vented rotors with four-piston yellow calipers in the rear for outstanding stopping performance, heat management, and durability. Available lightweight 20×10-in. forged aluminum Low Gloss Black wheels save a total of 12 lbs. versus the standard Trackhawk wheel. Standard are all-new Pirelli 295/45ZR20 Scorpion Verde All-Season tires or optional Pirelli P Zero three-season tires, with an increased speed rating.

We like the five driving modes that can be selected or customized (auto, sport, track, snow and tow) and the wheel-mounted paddle shifters; selecting sport gives you more aggressive steering, suspension, throttle and shifting, while track mode goes a step further..

Standard safety and security features include adaptive cruise control with stop, advanced brake assist, blindspot monitoring with rear cross path detection, full-speed forward collision warning with crash mitigation, front and rear park assist, lane departure warning-plus, ready alert braking, and Sirius XM Guardian and roadside assistance buttons.

The Grand Cherokee was Jeep’s best-selling vehicle in 2016, and year-to-date sales indicate it’s likely to perform just as well in 2017. Why? It’s an authentically-capable SUV that has legendary off-road heritage that performs well in the backcountry, on the road and even on the racetrack. Luxurious and performance-oriented, the new Trackhawk will help keep Grand Cherokee a top-seller in the Jeep portfolio.

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Sue Mead
Sue Mead’s automotive career began as a freelance evaluator for Four Wheeler Magazine in 1988, on the first team that included women as testers. Today, she travels the globe test-driving cars and trucks, and working as a photojournalist/feature writer for dozens of publications, specializing in 4WD and adventure. Mead has been an auto editor and 4WD editor for CNN/fn. Her books include Monster Trucks and Tractors; Off Road Racing, Legends and Adventures; and Rock Crawling. She has been to 70 countries; driven enough off-road and 4WD race miles to have circumnavigated the globe twice! Mead won the Open Production class at the 2011 Dakar; and is an inductee into the Off Road Motorsports Hall of Fame.